Juvenile program created in 1950s may stem 1990s youth violence.

Author:Smith, Albert G.
Position::Guided group interaction

Guided group interaction was a treatment method used in juvenile corrections from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s. It was abandoned with other similar programs when group treatment went out of vogue. In several locations where the program was used, research was an important part of the design. In all of these locations, the results were positive, and, in every case, the experimental group did better than the control group. This happened with guided group interaction programs in Highfield, N.J.; Provo, Utah; and San Francisco.

History of the Program

Guided group interaction was developed in the mid-1950s by Albert Elias at Highfield Cottage, a residential program for young offenders in New Jersey. Since it was considered unique at the time and the results were promising, it received a good deal of attention in professional journals.

In 1959, LaMar Empey, then a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, obtained a grant to replicate the Highfield Program in Provo. Empey's program had a much more sophisticated research design, and instead of being a residential program, the Provo experiment was a community-based program. The experimental group was compared to two control groups (individuals committed to the state industrial school and later paroled and others who were placed directly on probation), and throughout the program's 10-year history, the experimental group did considerably better than the two control groups.

In 1965, the California Youth Authority decided to replicate the Provo model in a more urban setting with more sophisticated offenders. Officials set up a community-based program in San Francisco that served young offenders who otherwise would have served time in the state reform school. The California program also featured a strong research component funded by the National Institute of Mental Health that included the experimental group and two control groups. Again, youths in the guided group interaction program had more favorable discharge rates from parole and more positive attitudinal changes as measured by the California Psychological Inventory and the Jesness Scale than did the control groups.

Guided group interaction also was used by Boy's Republic at its Los Angeles and Chino, Calif., programs, at the Palama Settlement House in Honolulu and in several of the federally funded Job Corps Centers around the country.

Assumptions About the Causes of Delinquency

This program may be making a comeback because of its assumptions about the cause of delinquency and the intervention strategy it uses. It may be particularly effective in treating youth gang...

To continue reading